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Saturday, 13 August 2011

Elvis, Undercover ("You must be kidding")


Documents and photos re: Elvis Presley-Richard M. Nixon meeting, 1970, from White House Central Files: Subject Files: EX HE 5-1; Nixon Presidential Materials Staff (National Archives and Records Administration)


kent said...

Even if no one else cares, I've sent links to several interested parties. In fact, subject lines read: "why all things bad begin with bad penmanship."

ACravan said...

A wonderful (for me) first thing Sunday morning post after a fretful Friday/Saturday. There was always (and will always be) a large "You must be kidding" element to this entire episode. I expect you've read the incredible "Elvis, What Happened?", by Elvis's bodyguards (assisted by Steve Dunleavy), which was published a couple of weeks before EP's death. In our house (we purchased it on release), it remains the invaluable Elvis source because the witness is so acute and it's easy to pick out the self-serving from the true-to-life. I know what Kent means about the bad penmanship, but would only add that it must have been difficult to write well when you're on the kind of powerful medication that sustained Elvis. You get the impression that he's actually trying to write as well as he can, unlike, say, most of the white artists whose signatures appear etched in glass in the "Hall of Fame" pyramid room atop the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. (By contrast, the black HOF honorees have pretty uniformly excellent penmanship, including Stevie Wonder.) I assume that Elvis was given American Airline pilot memo pads to write on. Wow. That's never happened to me. I think I'd like to have pads exactly like that one printed. Writing on them would open up new imaginary worlds. Curtis

ACravan said...

Haldeman's "You must be kidding" comment really is priceless. Elvis concluding his letter to Nixon with "Respectfully" is kind of wonderful to read. I like that "Jimi Hendrix" is spelled correctly. I think my favorite "Elvis: What Happened" anecdote is the one where he peeled onto the runway in Memphis and boarded a plane that was about to take off because he thought that Mike Stone, the karate teacher who was Priscilla's lover was on board. The pilot recounted seeing an unmistakeable Elvis Presley in hot pursuit of his prey, displaying his genuine FBI special agent's badge (he previously rejected the bureau's offer of an "honorary" badge), and carrying on in a mad, but convincing way, as if he was an actual federal agent, rather than simply the King. (He was very natural in the movies also.) Shelby County, Tennessee -- quite a place. All this and Jerry Lee Lewis too. Curtis

Ed Baker said...

last night I watched a Kevin Kostner movie:

3,000 Miles To Graceland

phantasy being exactly what it is... Phantasy !



Quite amazing -- hard to imagine this could have happened (nay, impossible) but true (photos and hand-written note show it) . . . .


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, white circle of moon in branches
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

idea that rises from matter,
but shown in place of

object will seem to view it,
system, this possible

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
cormorant flapping across toward point

TC said...

Aye, amazing and beyond. This must be one of history's greatest paper-trail narratives.

The image of Elvis there on the plane, with the pilot's memo-pad, stuffed full of those heroic sustaining medications, George Murphy as his wingman -- did Elvis have the window seat? were those really clouds? did turbulence add an extra degree of difficulty to the penmanship challenge?

And then, showing up at the gate of the Casa Blanca, armed with letter and gun.

But yes, the orthography.

With every wobbly pen stroke Elvis gives us his strange earnest to-the-hilt peckerwood all.

Bud Krogh's discreet signature, Dwight Chapin's quick initialing, Nixon's own rather distant rubber-stamp thank-you-note non-autograph...

No, it's the cynicism of Haldeman, in his on-target marginal comment, that really opens up our window to "history".

ACravan said...

When I was in college, a close friend of mine from childhood got to know one of Haldeman's children, who was about our age. This seemed like an odd circumstance, but apparently the son was very nice and my friend told me that H.R. "Bob's" company and the time he wound up spending with the family was pleasant. The "you must be kidding" remark sounds characteristic, all other considerations aside, and does add to life's and Elvis's rich pageant. Curtis

gamefaced said...

oh but. we must keep fear cordial. and cool



Great to see this still up here -- day two of "amazing" bit of our "history" (The King in those photos dwarfs Nixon, who looks as strangely creepy as he always did). Presley and the President, who'd a thunk it?


first grey light in sky above blackness
of ridge, circle of moon above branches
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

from it, that returned from
some of which one not

something one can see, this
color, near somewhere

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
sunlit green of pine on tip of sandspit

Robb said...

I hate it when people say "You can't make this stuff up" but ...


TC said...

Cordial... and cool.

Coincidentally, a tip from ACravan has blazed the trail to further revelations of Elvis's Undercover Activities. Chilling with the King, a memorable Gift of Tongues... now it can be told... and is... by the Elvis Mystery Kiss Girl.

TC said...

A friend of this blog has passed along the following report re. another of the King's Presidential Consultations:


Thousands of devoted fans around the country will gather this week to mark the twentieth anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, but it is unlikely that any of them will feel that perhaps they might just have been able to save the king of rock and roll. That distinction—sort of—belongs to former President Jimmy Carter.

“When I was first elected President, I got a call from Elvis Presley,” Carter told me recently. “He was totally stoned and didn’t know what he was saying. His sentences were almost incoherent.” It was the summer of 1977, and Elvis, in a rage fuelled by barbiturates, had telephoned the White House from Graceland (among the two most visited residences in America) seeking a Presidential pardon for a sheriff he knew was in some legal trouble. “I talked to him for a long time, and I finally extracted that from him,” Carter recalled. In a scene weirdly reminiscent of the “Saturday Night Live” sketch in which the thirty-ninth President (played by Dan Aykroyd) used the White House hot line to talk a teen-ager down from a bad acid trip, Carter said he patiently tried to ease Presley out of his paranoid delusions, calming his fears that he was being “shadowed” by sinister forces and that his friend was being framed….

Carter recalled, “I asked him what the sheriff’s sentence was, and he said that he hadn’t been tried in court yet. Well, I said, ‘Elvis, I can’t consider a pardon until after a trial and sentencing and everything.’ I don’t think he understood that.”… Though Presley’s desperate calls to the White House continued unabated, Carter never spoke to him again.

—Douglas Brinkley, Dept. of Missed Opportunities, Talk of the Town, August 18, 1997